Cheetos Restaurant? Meh. May We Interest You in Pad Thai a la Bamba?

The cheesy American snack is opening a fancy pop-up eatery in TriBeCa today, but its Israeli counterpart is better in every way, and here’s the recipe to prove it

By Liel Leibovitz|August 15, 2017 11:00 AM

This morning, New York City will welcome its newest restaurant, a TriBeCa pop-up restaurant called The Spotted Cheetah [1]. Sponsored by Cheetos, it will feature, for three days only, inventive dishes featuring the popular and cheesy orange snack, like Cheetos-dusted fried green tomatoes on a bed of arugula, fresh corn, and cherry tomatoes; or mains like Cheetos-infused meatballs with ricotta.

Imma let you finish, Cheetos, but Bamba is the greatest snack of all time.

Israel’s national snack, Bamba, unlike Cheetos, doesn’t leave a thick film of radioactive orange dust on your fingertips, which you’re then forced to wipe off on your pants or your couch. Unlike Cheetos, which are crunchy and thin and resemble what I imagine to be the droppings of a particularly dehydrated cheetah on a strict diet of shrubbery, Bambas are soft and supple, melting in your mouth. They also make nut allergies less likely, which mean that they’re scientifically good for you [2].

So instead of getting hyped up about Cheetos’ little publicity stunt, why not cook something with Bamba instead? Generations of impoverished Israeli college students have been doing just that, and even though you can find recipes for anything Bamba—Bamba ice cream, Bamba salad dressing, Bamba-crusted tilapia—there’s one quintessentially low-budget dish you have to try. It’s been passed around [4] from one young Israeli to another since the dawn of Facebook. Behold, then, with a few tweaks, Pad Thai a la Bamba:

First, sauté some chicken. How much chicken? Up to you: This is a student recipe, not some fancy TriBeCa restaurant. Use a wok if you have it, whatever oil you please, and cube, dice, or slice the meat whatever way you like it. Stir constantly over medium heat for about five minutes. When it’s almost ready, pour a nice big tablespoon of honey and two tablespoons of soy sauce over it, just to make it more delicious.

Put your chicken aside, and grab a bunch of chopped vegetables. Which ones? Don’t ask me! It’s your dinner. Personally, I like stuff that cooks quickly, which means sliced onions, diced peppers, a bunch of corn, some zucchini, maybe—a lot of good stuff. Sauté that, too, for a few minutes, and if you’d like, drizzle a bit more soy sauce, honey, or salt. While all this fun stuff is going on, boil two-and-a-half cups of water in a kettle or a pot.

Now comes the fun part: put the chicken back in with the vegetables, and add one big bag of Bamba (which is orange) or two little bags (they’re blue). Also, add one package of noodles; I like soba, but you may have other ideas. Pour the boiling water over the whole shebang, and mix well.

Watch as the boiling water melt the Bamba, magically transforming it into a creamy, delicious sauce as the noodles soften and absorb the peanuty goodness. When all the water’s been absorbed, sprinkle with sliced scallions, some bean sprouts, and a little bit of lime juice. And don’t even think about trying another snack ever again.

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